When we ran a survey of NDIS participants and legal guardians, we anticipated that people in regional areas would find it harder to access services due to a lack of choice. While it’s true that lack of services can be an issue, we also uncovered that they are 45% more likely to say that finding a service was easy, compared to their capital city counterparts. Not only that, they’re more confident with their decision and are more likely to believe their service organisation has their best interests at heart.
It made us curious. What is empowering regional customers and driving more confidence in their providers? And what can metro service providers learn from this to smooth the process of finding and retaining their own customers?
What we found overall is that personalised support and community referrals are paving the way for happier customers.
Faced with a scarcity of services, people in regional areas make greater use of referrals and word of mouth. They are less likely to rely on advertising or going online than those in metro areas. This level of trust in their local community makes the choice easier for regional customers.
“I was very lucky to have a GP who referred us to the right fit, first time. Our clinical psychologist goes above and beyond for her clients…It’s not just a job to her, it is a calling. We would be truly lost without her services.”
Legal guardian of a child (aged 0-18), Regional QLD
Ease of communication for regional customers plays a key role in how confident and happy they feel with their choice of service organisation. Our survey shows that regional customers have more trust and confidence in their support organisation than those in metro areas. They also say that they can easily contact and communicate with them.
“We found [our service provider] largely through word of mouth from friends currently using these services. They are efficient, knowledgeable and make us feel like we’re part of the family.”
Legal guardian of an adult (aged 18+), Regional NSW
It makes sense that regional organisations and their support staff are more likely to be working with a smaller base of customers. They can therefore provide a more personalised level of service and foster a stronger sense of community. This is creating happier customers that are more likely to believe their interests are a priority.
How providers can use technology to create a sense of personalised service at scale
Toby O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer at St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, echoes the idea that an individualised approach to care is the way forward for service providers in any region, of any size. Toby has been involved in disability services from service provision to policy for decades. He was also an early advocate of a customer-centric and outcome-based approach, prior to the introduction of NDIS. Toby believes that technology will play a role going forward to further support what customers want from their NDIS services — and continue to drive change in making the country more accessible.
Toby reflects on his experience as CEO of St Laurence Community Services in the Barwon region of Victoria. “We saw a real difference in the relationship of our customers and staff in the small town of Colac, compared to a larger region like Geelong. If you have 25 clients, you can obviously take a more individual approach with them than you can to 250. Having seen the incredible changes that have taken place over the last 10 or so years, I’m excited to see the potential for technology to drive even further personalisation of services and for more providers to be able to do that on a much larger scale,” he says.
Toby adds that hiring passionate individuals who could be trained to deliver services that excite them lead to better outcomes for their customers. “We had professional artists nurturing the talent of our customers and getting people into exhibiting their work. We ran a cafe, a garden nursery — we created real pathways for customers into employment and had a workforce that cared deeply about what they were doing,” explains Toby.
So how do larger providers create this sense of individualised service at scale? And how can you match passionate staff with customers who can benefit the most from their expertise and interests?
Tips for personalisation at scale:
- Keep updated profiles of staff: What do your support workers love most about their job? What are their skills, interests and hobbies outside of work? Are there any ideas or projects they are passionate about? Discovering these details when onboarding (and keeping them updated as they progress) can help with matching support staff to clients that can benefit from their unique understanding and skills.
- Enhance the onboarding experiences for customers: When a new customer comes on to your service, taking note of their preferences and personal experiences can go a long way in helping staff to deliver individualised care.
- Deliver a consistency of service: Ideally, you want the same staff member to be delivering support to a regular customer-base. However, this isn’t always possible. Keeping accurate records of each customer’s history, communication preferences, and their routines and likes/dislikes can assist in providing support in a consistent way from multiple employees.
- Make time for the little things: Little details can have a big impact on the customer experience and provides an individual level of service. For example, if a new support worker comes in knowing a customer’s favourite music to listen to and puts it on, or acknowledges a birthday or important milestone anniversary — people are more likely to feel seen and heard. With the right record keeping, it’s not impossible to deliver personal touches to every customer.
Personalisation has also been a core focus of GoodHuman when developing how service providers can manage their workforce on the GoodHuman platform.
GoodHuman’s smart rostering function can ensure you pair customers with workers based on any number of attributes from qualifications and location to what makes them unique as a person, like life experience, hobbies and interests. Customers accessing the GoodHuman app have more choice and control in choosing who to book services with and can have more say in building their own support network. And because all staff can enter their case notes and history directly into the GoodHuman business app at the conclusion of each shift, anyone providing service to a customer for the first time can quickly review a customer’s history and ensure continuity of care. As many customers find it upsetting to explain their situation to strangers, this can make an incredible difference in providing personalised service across support workers.
Improving customer service and connection
When it comes to customer service, participants and legal guardians — whether they live in metro or regional areas — are looking for responsiveness with care and empathy. It’s not always easy to do at scale — but it’s far from impossible — and technology is making it easier every day. Check out our full research report to uncover all the data on what NDIS participants and legal guardians value the most and how service organisations of any size can provide the kind of customer service that will build your reputation and grow your business.